Monday, December 5, 2011

The Perfect and the Good

Opinio Juris has a great post about a failed attempt to promote an international treaty regarding  the use and manufacture of cluster bombs, which is a telling moral story. The new treaty would have been less restrictive than a former 2008 "Oslo treaty". However, very few nations that actually use or manufacture cluster bombs had ever actually signed the Oslo treaty, and hence this new treaty would have been a large improvement on the status quo. The Signatories to the Oslo treaty  refused to "lower the bar", and insisted that all nations should sign the older, stricter, Oslo treaty. The end result was that the newer treaty has collapsed. Opinio Juris sums up:

So we are left with an extremely restrictive cluster bomb treaty that doesn’t reach 85 percent of the world’s cluster bombs, and we reject a less restrictive treaty that would have a wider much more effective reach.  I get the idea that international law has an important expressive value, but surely practical reach has got to considered at some point.
In other words - the international community has rejected a treaty that would have significant gains, because it wasn't perfect, thereby leaving the world with no gain whatsoever.

It is not hard to relate this to our religious experience. Too often I've seen religious people insist on a standard that is impractical for everyone to follow, only to be left with nothing at all.

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